To renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, every building tells a story. Men’s Passion looks at the work of this remarkable and talented man.
The story of the world, its most ambitious dreams and desires, can be seen through architecture, believes world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind.
Best known perhaps on the global stage as the man whose design was selected for several of the components of the rebuilding of the World Trade Centre site in New York, Libeskind sees design and architecture as the foremost commentators on our time: “Without them there would be no history, no reference about where we are, where we have been and where we are going not only as individuals, but as a society,” he says.
Libeskind’s mould-breaking buildings grace many of the world’s greatest cities, and their design not only tells their story, but creates a forum for everyone to discuss architecture in its newest, and sometimes quite controversial, forms.
Libeskind’s architectural vision knows no bounds. He has designed everything from major cultural and commercial institutions – including museums and concert halls to convention centres, universities, housing, hotels, shopping centres and residential work. He also designs opera sets and has an object design studio that has even been responsible for the design of a radical looking piano.
“Architecture and the buildings I create are much more than a place; they are a destination meant to evoke emotion and to make you think about the world we all live in,” he says.
“When I design a building I take into account the surroundings of the site, the people who will live and work in the building, the people who will pass by it every day, the way the light and sky complement it.”
Libeskind was born in postwar Poland in 1946 and became an American citizen in 1965. A talented musician, he initially studied music, but left it to turn to his other passion, architecture, which he studied in New York City, before moving to the UK to study for his postgraduate degree in history and the theory of architecture in 1972.
He established his own studio, the Daniel Libeskind Studio in Berlin, in 1989, but when he won the World Trade Centre design competition in February 2003, he moved his operations to New York. The Memory Foundation, as the WTC site is called, is now under construction and is due to be completed in 2013. As well as the towering 1,776 feet Freedom Tower at the heart of the project, the plan includes a complex programme which called for the construction of a memorial with waterfalls, an underground museum and visitor centre, shops, a special transit hub and four office towers spiralling to the height of the Freedom Tower. This is not the only major project that Libeskind has under construction or in design – and the list is impressive. It includes the westside shopping and leisure centre in Bern, Switzerland, which is due to be completed this year; the Creative Media Centre in Hong Kong; the Grand Canal Performing Arts Centre and Galleria in Dublin, Ireland; the Haeundae Udong Hyundai I’Park in Busan, South Korea; the Hummingbird Centre for Performing Arts in Toronto, Canada and the Reflections buildings in Singapore.
He has lectured and holds professorships at universities around the world and has an impressive list of awards, including, in 2001, becoming the first architect to be given the Hiroshima Art Prize, an award given to an artist who promotes international understanding and world peace. In 2004 he was appointed the first Cultural Ambassador for Architecture by the US Department of State as part of the CultureConnect Programme.
In 2007 his extension to the Denver Art Museum was named one of the new wonders of the world by Conde Nast Traveller magazine, while the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester, England, won the silver award for the visitor attraction of the year. This building consisted of three interlocking shards representing earth, air and water, constituting the various functions of the museum.
“The Imperial War Museum deals with the conflicts that have shaped the 20th century and those which will continue to shape the future,” explains Libeskind. “The building brings together culture and regeneration, craft and design in order to give the public a striking emblem which in an instant illuminates both tradition and the new.”
Almost uniquely for a contemporary architect, Libeskind does not work from a computer. His visionary and spectacular designs are hand drawn and then brought to life through computer generated models or 3-D models by his talented team that has drawn together architectural talent from all over the world.
It was winning the World Trade Centre project – against every other leading global architectural practice- that catapulted Libeskind into the global limelight. It has also allowed the general public to gain an insight into his other work and to appreciate the quality, imagination and passion behind his vision to create truly innovative buildings that combine an outstanding visual appeal with the ability to deliver what his demanding clients require.
As an architect who is in increasing demand world wide, one thing is certain: Libeskind and his creations will be speaking to us and telling their story for years to come.
First published in Men's Passion issue #2 Jan.Feb.08